Monday, 21 November 2016

Sunday 20 November – Aigues-Mortes and La Grande-Motte

Where’s Colin? He’s at a commercial Aire in La Grande-Motte. It’s €11 at this time of year, which includes electric as well as water and waste, but the toilet block is now closed for the winter.

We’re not finding the MeteoFrance weather forecasts to be accurate, often forecasting rain which doesn’t materialise. Thus, having moved last evening for fear of what the predicted overnight rain would do to the dirt track, we woke to a dry world this morning.

A few spots of rain finally arrived, together with the forecast strong winds, just as we made our final ‘pre-flight’ checks (don’t want to be driving away with the fridge still running on gas or with a cupboard door not secured, amongst other things on the checklist) at around 9am. Soon we were driving away from that rain and towards the brighter skies above the fortified town of Aigues-Mortes (sounds like a deadly fever, doesn’t it?).

Motorhomes are banned from parking at Aigues-Mortes, except in the designated Aire. In this case, the charge is made by the quarter hour and, for the first few hours, it’s 50c per 15 minutes, so it wouldn’t have broken the bank to park there. However, it’s perfectly possible to park for free within a mile of the centre, so we saved our pennies for coffee and pastries and took a walk.

The Canal du Rhone sits prettily in front of the town. If it wasn’t for those trees, the fortifications would be more obvious.

The main point of interest of Aigues-Mortes is that the walls, which surround the town (and have done since 1295), are still complete:

How to get a view of what the town really looks like? Buy a postcard!

However, within about 15 minutes of walking around the town (lots of tourist-tat and sweet shops), we didn’t feel like there was anything else for us to see. There were some attractive streets, but not in the same ‘stepping back in time’ way as other places we’ve visted. If it wasn’t for the walls, I don’t feel like this town would get much attention at all.

Onwards then, to La Grande-Motte. This is the entirety of what the Rough Guide has to say about the place (and, perversely, what caused me to want to come here):

“The oldest of the new resorts, on the fringes of the Camargue, La Grande-Motte is a 1960s vintage beachside antigone – a “futuristic” planned community which has aged as gracefully as the bean bag and eight-track tape. In the summer, its seaside and streets are crowded with semi-naked bodies; in winter, it’s a depressing, wind-battered place with few permanent residents.”

Whilst I find the guidebook useful to give us an overview of what’s available to see and do in a place, together with opening times and entrance fees, it’s not unusual for us to have a different view to its authors, so I fancied a look at this dated, depressing place … and found it far more interesting and engaging than Aigues-Mortes.

The snap below is looking across the marina to La Grande-Motte itself…

… but we’re actually staying by the area of town called Le Couchant, which was designed in 1974 and whose appartment blocks are each individual in design, and more notable from their backsides than their sea-facing fronts. Here’s the information board about the concept:

In terms of being depressing in winter, its certainly largely uninhabited at the moment, but we’ve spent time in a number of deserted European seaside resorts and I’ve never found any of them depressing in the same way as some British seaside resorts are in winter. Maybe it comes across differently on a rainy day.

The bit about being wind-battered was certainly true, although that seems to apply to most of France today, as I’ve seen this evening that there’s a weather warning out over a large chunk of the country for strong winds. The windiness was a draw for many people, as I have never seen so many kite- and wind-surfers in one place – and this snap is just of one small section of the busy beach and sea:

There must surely be some tangling of lines?

On our arrival in town, we’d hesitated slightly over whether to park up for free at a roadside, or whether to go to the Aire, which sits just out of town, in a road of closed-for-winter campsites. We could easily have manged without electricity, so didn’t need to spend €11 on the Aire, but decided to anyway. We’re one of only six here (at least two of which look to be long-term) and there’s a bit of a sorry look about the place in its leaf-strewn state. I think if we had just parked up and taken a walk before we committed to the Aire, we would have ended up down by the marina, parked for free, in plentiful company:

(Incidentally, 19 degrees here today. I’ve finally been able to move out of long-sleeved Merino and into a t-shirt. Didn’t even need a jacket this afternoon.)

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